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Want the lights on when you get home? Perhaps you could connect a timer system to your lights. This would be quick and simple, but teach you nothing. It’s also a rather inflexible solution, setting your lights to come on at the exact same time every night no matter what.
Perhaps a different solution can be found?
We previously gave you a demo of the littleBits Smart Home Kit (get it on Amazon), which we gave away to one lucky winner. This kit does more than just look pretty, however. It is a fully-functioning DIY smart home solution. We can use the littleBits Smart Home Kit with a remotely-activated light switch with ease.
What You’ll Need for a Remote Light Switch
To create a remote light switch, you’ll need the littleBits Smart Home Kit. From here, grab the cloudBit, the power connector, and the IR Transmitter.
You’ll also need the littleBits AC adapter, which your lamp will be plugged into. This has an IR receiver, which means that we can remotely trigger it using the IR Transmitter module.
Infrared is a key element of smart home projects, often used to remotely activate devices when conditions are met, such as time of day, or perhaps when a particular temperature or humidity is reached. By using it to switch a lamp on and off, we can potentially save money and even energy, as with these smart home devices.
We’ll remotely activate the AC adapter using the cloudBit web console, which you can access from anywhere. Before we get to that, let’s look at setting up the modules with the IR receiver.
Setting Up the littleBits Smart Home Kit Modules
Begin with the littleBits modules, connecting them and mounting on a breadboard. You’ll also need to have connected the cloudBit module to your wireless network, following the instructions at www.littlebits.cc/cloudstart. If you have any problems here, restart the process; persistent issues should be raised with the super-efficient littleBits support team.
Next, connect your AC adaptor to the mains, and plug in your lamp. You’ll need to position the IR receiver on the adaptor within line of sight of the IR transmitter on the breadboard. For testing purposes, however, you should be able to manage just by moving the receiver into position as and when the command is sent.
You should now have something that looks like this:
(Note that I’m using UK sockets here, although the littleBits adaptor is the US standard.)
Pair the IR Transmitter and Receiver
For this project to work, you’ll need the IR transmitter to send signals to the AC adaptor’s IR receiver. If you haven’t paired them already, view the video below (you’ll need the button module connected for pairing).
With the two devices communicating, you’ll be ready to proceed. If you have any problems here, just unplug both the IR module and the AD adaptor, reconnect to the mains, and try again.
Use an App to Switch on Your Lamp
When we originally tried this project, the idea was to use the Internet to send an SMS message from your preferred app to your smart lamp, using an IFTTT SMS/cloudBit recipe. Unfortunately, this proved unsuitable as the Android SMS channel only works with SMS events.
That is, you cannot send an SMS message to your cloudBit and expect a result; instead, received SMS messages trigger a response. However, this is only a shortcoming with this particular project; many other IFTTT automation recipes are available for cloudBit users.
After a quick browse of the Google Play store, however, I found the Remote Control for cloudBit app which needs to be populated with the cloudBit’s device ID and API token from the CloudBit Settings page. With these added, all you need to do is tap the Send button to trigger the IR transmitter. Alternatively, you can simply visit the control.littlebitscloud.cc/ page in your mobile browser.
Your light should now be switched on!
Beyond the Smart Lamp
You don’t have to make a smart lamp. Other devices can be connected instead. For instance, you might like to hook up a coffee machine so that you have a freshly brewed blend ready for you when you get home.
Alternatively, for those event TV viewing situations in which your arrival is within seconds of the broadcast starting, you might use this smart home build to switch on your TV remotely, ready for you to watch as you enter the house, potentially saving valuable viewing time.
If you own a littleBits Smart Home Kit, this is just one example of the many projects that are possible. Let me know if you have any questions, and leave your thoughts in the comments box below.